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17 June 2010

Iain Dale sadly bows to Westminster’s mad culture of youth

Leading blogger quits as Tory candidate.

By James Macintyre

Iain Dale has just revealed that he has opted out of being a Tory candidate for parliament. He writes:

Last night I attended a reception at Number 10 and had a brief chat with David Cameron. He said he hoped I would try for a seat at the next election. I explained that that wouldn’t be happening and that I had made a decision well before the last election not to try again if I didn’t get a seat then.

I also said that I felt that at 52 (which I will be if this parliament lasts five years) it was unlikely that I would be selected anyway. I’ve made my views known before about the virtues of selecting older candidates, with real-life experience, but politics in this country is becoming youth-obsessed and I doubt whether I would be able to stem that particular tide. Of course older candidates do get selected, but they are very much the exception rather than the rule — exactly the opposite of how it should be.

Anyway, there are things I’d rather do over the next few years rather than flog what I consider to be a dead horse. I’ve always wanted to be a parliamentarian, but I’m not obsessive about it — perhaps that is where I have gone wrong!

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So, to formally bring this part of my life to an end I have written to Sayeeda Warsi, the new chairman of the party, to ask her to remove my name from the party’s list of approved candidates.

I will, of course, continue to help the party in a voluntary capacity in any way I can, and as much as my business and media activities allow!

I feel strangely liberated . . .

Now, Dale has had a few mini-pops at me in the past, and I hold no particular candle for him. I can also well understand his feeling of liberation, and perhaps he has made the right decision for him. But I have never understood why such an undeniably thoughtful Tory was unable to enter the Commons when, frankly, so many mediocrities found their way on to the green benches.

It certainly says a lot more about the Tory party than it does about Dale.

More importantly, the age point that Dale makes is crucial. I am disgusted by Britain’s culture of youth in politics. I want my leading politicians to be older, wiser and more experienced. I remember when internal opponents of Ken Clarke were repeatedly trying to stop him becoming leader of the Tories. The main charge they cited was that he was “too old”.

Well, aside from the fact that Clarke is infinitely more popular (and probably energetic) than most Tory MPs put together, this is a curiously English obsession. It doesn’t happen in America, say, or the Middle East, where leaders in their seventies are — or perhaps this used to be in the case of the US — the norm. Let’s all grow up, please, in every sense.

And I hope, however unlikely it may be, that Dale changes his mind.